Bikers, Walkers Threatened By Increase In Distracted Driving
April showers have given way to May flowers, encouraging walkers and bicyclists to get out and enjoy the weather. Long walks and leisurely bike rides can be a perfect way to soak up the sun, but busy streets with distracted drivers can be an accident waiting to wreck a lovely day. Unfortunately, when drivers are distracted, pedestrians and bikers often pay the price. This month, you should know how to keep yourself safe while you enjoy the spring season.
More Cars, More Walkers and Bikes, More Distractions = Higher Traffic Deaths
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2016 in traffic accidents. In 2015, more than 800 bicyclists lost their lives in motor vehicle-involved crashes. Pedestrian deaths shot up 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, bicyclist deaths by 13 percent – both more than any other category of traffic-related fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The cause of this deadly trend has been greatly debated, with different groups pointing to a stronger economy and hence more cars on the road, more people walking to work or for recreation, and distraction due to the skyrocketing use of smartphone technology. Meanwhile, most efforts to prevent distraction are focused on motor vehicle drivers and passengers rather than pedestrians and bicyclists.
Teens Account for 25 Percent Increase in Pedestrian Deaths Over Past Five Years
Even if a person is not behind a wheel, they can be at risk if walking while talking on a cell phone or listening to music through headphones. Among kids, teens account for 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the United States, and unintentional pedestrian traffic injuries are the fifth leading cause of fatalities for ages 5 to 19. Older teens have accounted for a staggering 25 percent increase in pedestrian injuries in the past five years. Over half of all adults have been involved in a distracted walking encounter.
Tips To Stay Safe
Walking or bicycling are healthy for both people and the environment. Perhaps that is why we’ve seen a 60 percent increase in commuter biking during the past decade. But while bicycle deaths among children have thankfully decreased by 88 percent since 1975, deaths among bicyclists age 20 and older have more than tripled. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind that will increase your chances of arriving safely at your destination, whether on foot or by pedal!
- Look left, right and left again before crossing the street
- Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you
- Be aware of drivers even when you’re in a crosswalk; vehicles have blind spots
- Don’t wear headphones while walking or biking
- Never use a cell phone or other electronic device while walking or biking
- If your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic
- Never rely on a car to stop
- Only cross at designated crosswalks (82 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur outside crosswalks)
- Wear bright and/or reflective clothing, especially at night
- Always wear a helmet while biking
- Walk in groups, if possible
- Follow all traffic laws and road signs, and signal to turn
This article appeared in our May 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.